Pro-breastfeeding groups have rejected research advising that newborns should be fed formula milk, saying such a proposal contradicts the exclusive breastfeeding campaign.
The research plan — allegedly prepared by the University of Indonesia’s (UI) medical faculty — would feed infants below 4-months-old with the specified formula.
“Babies should not be used as objects in experiments. Every baby has the right to be breast fed exclusively for six months as stipulated in the 2009 Health Law,” the Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers Association’s (AIMI) chairwoman Mia Sutanto told reporters on Wednesday.
AIMI is one of seven associations that have rejected the research proposal. Other groups include the Indonesian Breastfeeding Counselor Association (IKMI), Indonesian Breastfeeding Center (SLI), White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (APPI), Kakak Foundation, Talenta Asia Foundation and the Indonesian Breastfeeding Supporting Fathers (Ayah ASI).
The aim of the research, known as the Daffodil Study, is to find out what formula is most similar to breast milk. Once such formula is found, it will be given to infants who are not breast fed by their mothers.
The study will recruit healthy newborn to 4-month-old babies who are not being breast fed to take part in the research.
Evidence-based studies have shown that breastfeeding exclusively for six months is the best way to nourish infants, followed by complimentary foods and continued breastfeeding until the age of two and above.
However, only 15.3 percent of Indonesian babies are exclusively breast fed for the first six months, according to data in the 2010 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas).
While the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is at the heart of health advocacy in the country, the Daffodil Study seems to be a move in the opposite direction, Mia said.
“It is not mentioned during recruitment if the mothers will receive counseling from health workers or lactation counselors,” said Mia.
Exclusive breastfeeding could become more widespread if health workers championed it.
“Mothers must receive adequate information and education about breastfeeding including counseling and lactation assistance,” she said citing the 2012 government regulation on granting exclusive breastfeeding.
The absence of evidence from preliminary research makes the situation all the more worrying.
Mia said that the proposed research should include evidence from the pre-clinical studies, which proved that enriching the milk formula with mixed fat and added phospholipid did not cause harmful effects to either the animals used in the pre-clinical research period or the adults involved in the first and second phases.
“Although the sponsors will insure the babies involved in the research, the kind of coverage provided is not yet clear. There is no detailed explanation regarding the what risks will be covered. Plus, it seems that they have neglected to consider what long-term effects the formula may have on the children or what impact not breastfeeding may have on the mothers,” said Mia.
Commenting on the associations’ rejection, the Health Ministry’s director general of nutrition and children and maternal health, Slamet Riyadi Yuwono, told The Jakarta Post that the government encouraged scientific research but harmful effects were not expected to occur during the study.
“We will make sure that the research will not have a harmful impact on the objects of the study. If it causes harm to the research objects or means that our campaign for exclusive breastfeeding takes a step backward, we will not approve the study,” said Slamet.
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